An Overview of the Best Comedy Clubs in Chicago

Are you looking for comedy clubs in Chicago, Illinois? You’ve come to the right city! Chicago is a great city for comedy clubs and hilarious shows. After all, improv comedy was born in Chicago. And to this day, it supports a thriving community of both stand-up and improvisation comedians.

Second City

The first comedy club in Chicago you’ll want to visit is Second City, in Old Town on North and Wells. Second City is an institution. Countless celebrities and Saturday Night Live cast members got started at Second City. Their comedy shows combine pre-written skits, like something you might see on SNL, with improvisation, which is totally made up on the spot. You can’t go wrong with Second City. Prices are on the steep end, but their shows are consistently hilarious.


Just down the street on Wells is another comedy club in Chicago, Zanies. Zanies is the oldest stand-up comedy club in Chicago. They have shows every single night of the week, so if you’re more interested in stand-up than in improv, check out Zanies website and you’ll be sure to find someone you like. Their performers range from famous stand-up comedians to newbies looking to catch their first big break. Prices vary, but keep in mind there’s a two-drink minimum at every Zanies show; so that $20 ticket will probably cost you at least $30.

Improv Olympics

Farther north, in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, you’ll find iO (which stands for Improv Olympics). This is as good a comedy club as you’ll find in Chicago, but because it isn’t as well-known as Second City, it’s much less touristy. As you probably figured out, iO is improv-based. But unlike Second City, which teaches a lot of short-form improv, iO focuses on long-form improvisation.

In short-form improv, there’s a greater emphasis on making snappy jokes in quick succession, through short scenes that are not related to one another. But long-form improvers are more interested in creating a longer and more substantial experience through a series of interrelated scenes. One form isn’t necessarily better than the other—done properly, both are hilarious—so your choice should depend on what kind of experience you’re after. Often the humor in short-form improv is wittier, while the humor in long-form improvisation is more character-driven.

There are more comedy clubs in Chicago than you can shake a stick at, but these three are where you should get started. From there, decide what style you prefer, and start to explore in more depth. Remember, these places are great fun by yourself, with friends, or on a date.